An odd fusion of golf and soccer may be the answer to declining rounds on Davenport's municipal golf courses.
Footgolf, the PGA of America's term, combines the two sports as a way of reversing the trend of fewer golfers and fewer rounds played.
Putting Iowa's first footgolf course at Red Hawk Golf Course will be put in front of the parks advisory commission at its meeting Tuesday. The cost to outfit an 18-hole course is estimated at about $3,000.
Initially, footgolf would begin with a tournament to gauge interest.
"The reason we feel it is a good idea and have support to try it is because we have so many things in place for a pilot program," interim parks and recreation director Theresa Hauman said. "We have so many soccer players, that if a small number turned to golfers that would be tremendous."
The PGA wants to attract younger players through footgolf, with 95 courses certified by the American Footgolf League.
"They were looking for a specific audience and we have the audience they were looking for," said Carlos Stremi, founder and president of the Illinois Footgolf League. "You don’t have to be a skillful soccer player. You don’t have to be a skillful golfer. If you’ve kicked a ball in your life, you can play footgolf."
Red Hawk is the logical site for a footgolf course, Hauman said, noting that it is the city's developmental course and home of the First Tee program. It also is near the city's soccer complex.
The sport has gained momentum in the Chicago suburbs, with seven golf courses adding footgolf courses. Footgolf courses are intended to be laid out on nine holes of a regulation golf course. Players try to sink a soccer ball into 21-inch diameter holes usually 30 to 40 yards from the regulation green.
Earlier this year, as aldermen considered the city budget, concern over the declining number of rounds prompted the suggestion of selling one of the city's two 18-hole golf courses.
Davenport, like other municipalities, is seeing fewer golfers on its links. By budget estimates, about 70,000 rounds of golf must be played annually to break even. The projected rounds for fiscal year 2015 are 55,746.
In Davenport, golf rounds have been declining by 5 percent annually since 2005, leading to an annual revenue decrease of 4 percent, according to city data. The numbers are more extreme since 2010, with rounds declining by 7 percent and revenue dropping at 10 percent annually.
The PGA recognized the decline in golf participation and created a task force to look at how to increase interest. Footgolf was the result.
The Illinois Footgolf league will host at least 14 tournaments this summer. Stremi said more tournaments are expected as more courses are added.
"The golf industry is really embracing footgolf," Stremi said.
The Peoria Park District plans to put in a footgolf course at Detweiler Golf Course. Stremi is scheduled to visit Peoria next week to lay out the nine-hole course.
The park district has five courses for varying skill levels but also faces the national trend of declining play. The park district staff learned about footgolf and visited a tournament in the Chicago suburbs. PGA videos and YouTube clips didn't do the sport justice.
"I said we have to do this," said Sarah Cordis, the park district's supervisor of golf operations. "There was so much buzz, so much energy."
Peoria's footgolf course will be located just a few miles away from a large soccer complex that hosts a number of tournaments during the spring and summer.